Add a spring refresh to your meal plan with these simple springtime dinners. They are sure to be a hit for the whole family! Packed with all the flavors of spring- fresh, nutritious, and best of all- simple!
Spring is such a busy time for our family. I think we tend to stay busy year round, but we have two May birthdays (a day apart), a garden, a flock of free range chickens who want our garden, and all the parties, graduations, get togethers, church outings, and sporting events that come with this time of year. Oh, and we aren’t taking a break from homeschool until the end of July.. My head is spinning.
But nevertheless, dinner must be served. It’s crazy how dinner and dishes come every. single. night. regardless of how busy the day is. But spring has so many in season and nutritious foods, and I am determined not to miss out on all that this season has to offer, regardless of our schedule. So here are 4 Simple Springtime Dinners to incorporate into your meal plan for the full taste of spring.
The Importance of Seasonal Eating
The vast majority of us, myself included, do not eat seasonally. We probably do to some extent. Like how there’s something about snow that makes you crave a hearty stew with root vegetables. Or how the heat of summer brings a longing for fresh watermelon and sweet lemonade. Overall though- at least here in the states- our diets aren’t restricted to what the ground produces. We eat ripe strawberries on Christmas Day and avocados in February in rural Tennessee.
The grocery store is a wonderful thing and I love guacamole as much as anyone, but eating locally and seasonally has many health benefits:
- The foods produced during each season are more nutrient dense and fresher.
- It tastes better!
- And when buying local, food has less space to travel from farm to table. So it is fresher and less processed than if you purchased it from a big box store.
Interested in growing your own food this summer, visit our blog: Planning and Planting the Garden to help you get started! Let’s grow together!
Here are 4 Simple Springtime Dinners!
1. Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Stuffed Tomatoes
This has been a go to of mine for probably four years now, and it never disappoints! Spring is a perfect time to enjoy tomatoes (though maybe not from your own garden yet), basil, parsley, and- is there a bad time of year for parmesan?
This is one of those meals that can easily suit a Tuesday night or double as a crowd pleaser for a backyard party. Though it is really simple, it tastes and looks like it took a lot of effort. We served ours with pasta this time around, but in the past I have served this same meal with potatoes, salad, and even rice. The possibilities are endless.
For this particular night, I made a pasta salad using olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil from our porch. It doesn’t get easier than that!
The secret to the best and tastiest food is: great ingredients. Cooking from scratch is always more economical and has many benefits. It allows you to source your own food and to know what exactly you are feeding your family. Learning to cook from scratch may take time, but once you get the feel for it, you can develop your own recipes and grow in creativity. And the best part- you are learning a truly valuable skill to pass on to generations to come.
This recipe was one of the first I learned to cook and as long as you have fresh, ripe tomatoes and good chicken breasts, you’re golden!
- 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
- 3 ripe Roma tomatoes, halved
- 3/4 cup Panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1/4 cup Parmesan (grated), plus more for finishing
- Olive oil, for brushing
- fresh chopped basil
- Balsamic vinegar glaze (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 400. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. In a shallow bowl mix together: panko, parmesan, salt, and Italian seasoning,
3. Then, from your halved tomatoes squeeze out juices and seeds over the chicken. Be careful not to completely mash the tomatoes. This is a no waste recipe.
4. Arrange tomatoes onto the sheet pan, cut side up. Fill them with your panko mixture.
5. Brush each chicken breast lightly with olive oil, dip the chicken in the remaining panko mixture, then arrange on to the prepared sheet pan alongside the tomatoes.
6. Bake for 25 minutes. Or until your chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°, and no longer pink in the middle.
7. Top with shaved parmesan, basil or parsley, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Serve and Enjoy!
Note: You can make your own balsamic glaze from reducing down one cup balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup sugar. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is reduced by almost half. Coat the back of a spoon with glaze and run your finger across the middle (gently it is hot), your glaze is ready when the line remains visible.
2. Pasta Primavera
When I think of spring, I instantly think pasta primavera! Crisp peas, fresh asparagus, and a lemon butter sauce all sing together in this one. This is a simple and quick meal, which makes it the perfect dinner idea after a busy afternoon spent at the ball field or in the garden.
Nothing is better than cutting fresh herbs off your front porch to incorporate into your meals, and pasta is a great base for any buttery herb sauce! For this recipe, I used parsley (basil, sage, or dill would work as well), peas, asparagus, and of course lemon. You can use any variety of fresh spring herbs and vegetables. And of course parmesan cheese, you can’t go wrong with parmesan cheese!
- 4 tbsp Grass-fed Butter
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 sliced Shallot
- 2 cups Asparagus (chopped)
- 2 cups Fresh or Frozen Peas
- 1 tbsp Lemon zest
- 1/4 cup Lemon juice
- 1 (16oz) pasta of your choice, I used linguine
- Parmesan cheese, for topping
- Parsley, for topping
1. In a large pot, bring salty water to a boil, and cook according to the directions on your pasta box.
2. While your water is boiling, in a large cast iron, or pan, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Once, the butter is melted through, add sliced shallot and cut asparagus and cook until tender, about 4 minutes.
3. Add the peas and allow another two minutes, then add in lemon zest and juice. Lower heat to medium low.
4. Once pasta is al dente, add it to your cast iron with your spring vegetables. Toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to desired taste.
5. To finish, serve with grated parmesan and fresh parsley or basil.
3. Simple Salads
It doesn’t get any easier than a simple salad. There is something about the spring and summer that causes us to crave lighter foods. It really goes back to the idea of eating seasonally and what is healthiest for your body. Winter brings a taste for thick, hearty tomato based stews, and spring stirs up a desire for fresh, light, and beautiful food.
Green is the color of health, and every salad starts with a bright green backdrop. Spinach, kale, arugula, or any combination of spring greens make for a perfect base. (Unless you’re Isaiah, who claims he wants “a salad with no spinach or lettuce please”)
Salads can be as simple or as fancy as you want them. You can add any meat, dressing, vegetable, or berry you want. Radishes, strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers, you name it, it goes on a salad! Grab some of our favorite salad dressing recipes here!
For dinner tonight, we kept it super simple. We opted for hard boiled eggs for our protein, strawberries, blueberries, homemade honey mustard and blue cheese.
4. Fried Chicken with Homemade Ranch and Honey Glazed Carrots
I’m from the south, so to me there is nothing better than fried chicken. (Fried anything, if we’re being honest.) Fried chicken may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think spring, but with the fresh herbed lemon pop of homemade ranch and the honey drizzle on fresh carrots- the feel of spring is very prominent!
Every great fried chicken begins with a great chicken. The quality of meat we eat matters! Ideally, a fresh, local pasture raised chicken is preferred, but when it comes to purchasing chicken from big box stores look for those marked organic. This has to do with the diet they were raised on and should mean they were not fed GMO corn, soy, or antibiotics.
The best southern fried chicken is soaked in buttermilk and coated in a brown paper bag. It may be the old way of doing it, but as we say in Tennessee, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
And of course to round this out as a complete spring dinner, we need a side. It doesn’t get much easier than roasted carrots.
Carrots are a staple in our home. I buy a couple pounds each week and stick them in everything. Pancakes, waffles, soups, stews, lunch sides, snacks, and everything in between.
I simply toss them on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then, I roast them in the oven at 400° for about 20 minutes, until tender. Afterwards, I drizzle honey and parsley over the top. (Note: You can add honey mid way through baking if you prefer, however, honey tends to brown quickly and can often burn before the carrots are finished, which is why I drizzle it at the end.)
- 3-4 pounds of chicken (any cut is sufficient for this recipe, cook time may be effected)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup pickle juice (I typically use dill or bread and butter)
- 1 Tbsp Hot Sauce (optional)
- 1/2 yellow onion, quartered
- 2 whole garlic cloves, mashed
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 1/2- 3 cups of oil (about an inch and a half when melted in the bottom of a pan or cast iron) (See Notes for best oil choices)
1. To begin, brine your chicken in a large glass bowl. Mix the buttermilk, onion, garlic, hot sauce, pickle juice and salt. Allow your chicken to sit in the fridge in the brine for at least an hour or overnight.
2. In a brown paper bag (or shallow bowl), combine flour, panko, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, and pepper.
3. Drop the brined chicken into the brown paper bag and give it a shake!! For crispier chicken, repeat this step: back to buttermilk brine, then back into the bag.
4. In a cast iron or non-stick pan, heat your oil to 350° . Slowly drop the chicken into the oil. (If the oil is not yet up to temperature, the chicken will absorb the oil and affect the flavor. If it is too hot, it will burn the breading before the inside is fully cooked.
5. Cook about seven minutes per side. (Remember to flip! Mom brains sometimes forget. Ask me how I know.) Your chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165° for whilte meat and 170° for dark. The breading on the outside should be browned evenly.
6. Remove cooked chicken from the pan and lay on a paper towel lined plate to remove any excess oil!
7. Serve and enjoy!
You can use any oil your prefer for this recipe. In our home, we prefer not to eat seed oils so we use coconut oil, tallow, or lard.
(And a Dessert)
If you have read this far, then you are in for a real treat! What is a good spring dinner without a sweet dessert?! This recipe is one of my all time favorites. It graced the cover of Southern Living magazine a year or two ago and has been my go to for summer picnics, Fourth of July parties, and cool spring afternoons ever since!
This slab pie recipe is slathered in a mock key lime curd and topped with sweet strawberry whipped cream. It is a sure fire crowd pleaser, even for those who claim they don’t like lime! And what looks more like spring than this!
Spring Into Dinnertime
Drive throughs are so convenient on busy days. But they often come at a price. And I don’t just mean they cost more than eating at home, though they do. Mom guilt is real and when you realize all the sugary, processed food your kids have had in a busy month, it sets in. There are seasons where it just happens and you have to accept it, but with a little planning, you can avoid the seemingly “convenient” and the guilt. Many of the recipes listed above share very similar ingredients making it a great layout for meal planning and grocery runs.
Simply order the big pack of chicken and divide it between the fried chicken and chicken and tomatoes for two nights of home cooked meals. Lemons, parsley, and strawberries also are used over and over in the above recipes making it easy to use and reuse ingredients, cutting cost at the grocery store and putting fresh food on the table.
For more simple meal planning to start your day, visit our blog: 5 Simple Make Ahead Breakfast Ideas.
Happy Fresh Eating!
Did you try any of our recipes? Leave us a comment and let us know what you thought!
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